October 14,1977– Anita Bryant Gets a Pie in the Face
Pretty Anti-Gay activist Anita Bryant, standing with her husband Bob Green at a press conference in Des Moines, Iowa, famously had a pie thrown in her face while on camera by a Gay Rights activist. Quick with the quip, Bryant said: “At least it’s a fruit pie!” making a pun on the derogatory term for a gay man; a regular Oscar Wilde, she is. While covered in pie, she began to pray to God to forgive the pie thrower “for his deviant lifestyle” before bursting into tears while the cameras kept rolling. Bryant’s husband said he wouldn’t retaliate, but he followed the protesters outside and threw a pie at them.
Bryant, you probably remember, was the former beauty queen and orange juice shilling Christian zealot who mobilized a bastion of haters to fight the godless sodomites. She sowed the first seeds for the modern Conservative Religious Right, giving life to homophobic hate on school boards, city councils, and local and state ballot measures. She charmingly led the pronouncements that HIV/AIDS was a judgment from God when the plague first struck. Her words and her actions spread throughout the nation and led to an upswing in violent attacks, including murder, against gays and resulted in numerous cities denying or retracting Civil Rights ordinances for LGBTQ people.
Earlier in 1977, Bryant’s campaign led to a repeal of the anti-discrimination ordinance in Florida’s Dade County by a margin of 69 to 31 percent. The LGBTQ community retaliated against Bryant by organizing a boycott of Florida orange juice. Gay bars all over North America took screwdrivers off their drink menus and replaced them with the “Anita Bryant”, which was made with vodka and apple juice. Sales and proceeds went to LGBTQ Civil Rights activists to help fund their fight against Bryant and her campaign.
After the pie incident, the Florida Orange Juice boycott picked up steam and it was openly supported by many celebrities including Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Paul Williams, John Waters, Carroll O’Connor, Mary Tyler Moore and Jane Fonda.
Bryant led several more campaigns around the country to repeal local anti-discrimination ordinances including St. Paul, Minnesota; Wichita, Kansas; and Eugene, Oregon. Her success led to an effort to pass the Briggs Initiative in California which would have made even neutral statements regarding homosexuality by any public-school employee a cause for being fired. Grass-roots organizations in L.A. and the San Francisco Bay sprang up to defeat the initiative.
You can really connect the Anita Bryant Save Our Children campaign line to today’s GOP, Family Research Council, The American Family Association, and the flurry of Religious Liberty Laws, along with POTUS’ scapegoating of the menace from “the other”, like Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans and the Conspiracy of Jewish Global Bankers.
In 1977, Bryant said:
“What these people really want, hidden behind obscure legal phrases, is the legal right to propose to our children that theirs is an acceptable alternate way of life. I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before. As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children. If gays are granted rights, next we’ll have to give rights to prostitutes and to people who sleep with St. Bernards and to nail biters.”
She also added:
“All America and all the world will hear what the people have said, and with God’s continued help we will prevail in our fight to repeal similar laws throughout the nation.”
The push-back from the LGBTQ community and its supporters ruined Bryant. Her contract with the Florida Citrus Commission was allowed to lapse because of the controversy. Her marriage to Green failed at that time, and in 1980 she divorced him, citing emotional abusiveness and latent suicidal thoughts. Even the fundamentalist audiences and venues shunned her after her divorce and she was no longer invited to appear at their events and she lost another major source of income. With her four children, Bryant moved from Miami to Selma, Alabama, then Branson Missouri, and finally to Edmond, Oklahoma, where she heads Anita Bryant Ministries International. Smelling the money that the Anti-LGBTQ groups make today, Bryant returned to her roots and recently appeared at an Anti-LGBTQ, Anti-Atheist, Anti-Muslim event sponsored by Reclaiming America For Christ. Holy shit, Anita!
The man who threw the infamous pie, lifetime gay activist Thom Higgins, left this world in 1994.
Let’s raise a glass of OJ to Anita Bryant and her pie!